Even though spring training is only a few days old, there are numerous highly regarded prospects that have already generated a favorable buzz. Granted, it has come in the form of a batting practice session or light bullpen—but hey, it counts.
The big story this week came out of the Rays’ camp, where the team’s new top prospect, outfielder Wil Myers, apparently put on one helluva show during batting practice on Thursday.
Here’s a look at some other early returns on prospects participating in big league spring training.
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
It certainly didn’t take long for No. 4 prospect Wil Myers to make a strong impression with his new organization, the Tampa Bay Rays.
According to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, the 22-year-old outfielder, who’s fresh off a minor league campaign in which he launched 37 home runs across two levels, put on quite the show during batting practice on Thursday.
The collective word from everyone in attendance paints a clear picture of Myers’ impressive BP session:
"I didn't get to see him [hit]; I was over there on the other field, but when he hit the ball, I thought it was thunder," smiled Maddon, bringing the familiar twinkle to his eye.
"He was hitting the ball like a grown man," said Sean Rodriguez, who shagged balls during Myers' session.
"It's a different sound," (Derek) Shelton said. "You see that when you see the bat speed or the torque he creates. It's loud. You don't hear many guys that can create that sound."
"The thing that's the most impressive is the bat speed," Shelton said. "The way the ball comes off his bat. You can see it not only when he's hitting on the field, but when he's hitting off a tee. You don't see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed. First day, yeah, it's exciting to see."
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
While it’s doubtful that No. 6 prospect Gerrit Cole will break camp as a member of the Pirates’ big league starting rotation, the organization is intent on giving him plenty of looks this spring.
With a three-pitch arsenal of above-average to plus offerings—his fastball is technically a plus-plus pitch given his ability to touch triple digits—the 6’4” right-hander has all the makings of a future ace. So, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that the organization has placed Cole in a group with starters A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald.
Here’s what manager Clint Hurdle had to say about the situation (via MLB.com)
"Yes, we put a lot of thought into how we group guys. We don't just pick names out of a hat and put them together," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We look at guys we may want to match up, so they can watch some other people, see how they go about things, to help with that educational process. That's something we definitely keep in mind with some of our prospects."
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Selected with the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman enters the 2013 season, his first full season as a professional, ranked as the game’s No. 47 prospect.
Backed by a fastball in the mid-90s and a low-to-mid-80s changeup, Gausman has the potential to be one of the first pitchers from the 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues. Likely to open the year with the Orioles’ High-A or Double-A affiliate, the right-hander could make a strong case for a late-season call-up with an impressive first half.
Participating in big league camp, it seems as though Gausman has already made a favorable impression on the coaching staff after throwing his first spring bullpen on Thursday.
From manager Buck Showalter (via MLB.com):
Gausman's got a pretty good look. I think physically he's going to be fine. I like where he is physically. Look at what great shape he's in. To the eye, he may look a little slight compared to a 28-year-old established guy. It's a lot of new stuff for him. I'm more inclined to kind of leave him alone. He's had a lot of success doing it the way he's doing it. I don't see a whole lot there to change.
Carter Capps, RHP, Seattle Mariners
A third-round draft pick in 2011, Capps raced through the Mariners’ system last year, appearing in only 48 minor league games before receiving a call-up to the majors. Upon arrival, the 6’5” right-hander showcased one of the strongest arms in the game, highlighted by a fastball that averaged 99 mph—the second-highest velocity among all big league relievers.
With the incumbent Tom Wilhelmsen expected to close once again in 2013, Capps will be forced to pitch his way into the role. The good news is that he has already made a strong impression in big league camp with his overpowering, plus-plus heater.
Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge had this to say about the hard-throwing right-hander (via MLB.com):
"He got Shoppach's attention early on, I'll tell you," Wedge said with a smile. "But that's who he is. He's a big, strong kid who throws hard. You look at effort. As long as you don't see guys trying to do too much, that's where we have to pay attention. We've got a lot of eyes on these young pitchers out there, and we have the conversations you have to have with these guys and make sure they stay where they need to stay."